My mum Rene (Alice Irene Flitney née Harding) died in 1999. When my brother, sister and I went through her things we found an envelope full of old newspaper clippings and other bits and pieces. We looked through the papers and put the envelope away, but those yellowing pieces of paper keep whispering of half-forgotten times and places. Places like Butlers Cross, Stoke Mandeville, Aylesbury, West Wycombe, Little Kimble, Wendover, Ellesborough, Southcourt and Princes Risborough.

Monday, 23 February 2015

Guest Post – My Sister Remembers – Part Eight

Bob and I began our married life at Number 5, Blanket Street, East Worldham, near Alton in Hampshire.  A beautiful old thatched house, which we rented from Gales Brewery, very picturesque, but with no running water and a lavi down the back garden. The front garden was surrounded by a stone wall with a little wooden gate in the middle. Going through the front door you entered a nice sized lounge with a huge inglenook fireplace and a large understairs cupboard where we found a lovely copper warming pan. Off the lounge was a small dining room. The stairs went up from the lounge to one large bedroom and one small one directly off that. All the walls and ceilings had large black beams, which I loved. I spent many happy hours making curtains for the pretty windows and making the house look as cosy as I could. At the back of the house was the scullery, which was just a room with a flagstone floor and a gas cooker. Someone gave us a kitchen cabinet with a drop-down front which we used as a work surface, it was also handy for storing food and china. It was at about this time Bob had a win on the football pools. I'm not sure of the actual amount he won, but I think it was about £180, which was a lot of money in 1961. We went to The Ideal Home Exhibition in London and bought new lino for the lounge, dining room and bedroom, a bedroom suite, a spin dryer and a radio – what luxury.   

Left to right; Marian, Pat Wood holding Simon and Hartie Wood.

There was an elderly gentleman living next door, a real character with a house full of treasures.  He gave us some small trinkets to help our home look lived in. He also gave me a carpet beater which I would use to give the rugs a good old smacking, a wonderful thing to do when I ran out of humour. The Blacksmith shop/forge was on the right of our house and Bob’s mum and dad lived in the house next to that. Behind their house was a yard with a washhouse in a block. It might sound romantic, but you should try doing your washing in the winter. The outside tap always froze up and I remember once boiling the last of the bucket of water to try to thaw it out. Bob didn't worry too much about it preferring to leave me to get on with it.  It's great when you are young and in love but I certainly wouldn't be happy doing it now!

The outside of the house has changed little over the years other than half the front garden has been taken for parking and the thatch that was old and black has been replaced. It is now a modern detached house with running water and bathrooms, how I wish I could afford to buy it, but at least I can say, “I lived there”.

The house as it looks now.

I adopted lots of cats at Blanket Street. They came from the farm but much preferred living with us. When the farmer found out where they were he wanted them back so Bob bought me a lovely little black-and-white kitten which we called Ally Cat.  I loved him to bits, but he was only a few months old when he got run over by a car, and I decided I wouldn't have any more cats.

Ally Cat at the front of the house

Not long after that we rescued a dog. He was living in a coal bunker at the back of the Three Horse Shoes Pub, and the landlord really didn't  want him. The poor thing barked and whined day and night and in the end we asked the landlord if we could have him, but he insisted we pay for him.  We scraped the money together and took this poor one-year-old bedraggled pedigree Golden Labrador, called Worldham Honey home. We renamed him Shandy after his early days in the pub. He lived with us for many years and died when we were living at Northbrook Farm, but he never recovered from his first year living in the dark. The first time I went out and left him at Blanket Street he chewed up all the cushions and ruined Bob’s model aircraft. He also stole food, even though we fed him well twice a day.  He once stole an egg and bacon pie I had just taken out of the oven, I put it on the pull-down flap of the cabinet, it must have been very hot when he dragged it down and ate it. If we let him off the lead he would run away and often be gone overnight. It was at about this time he went back to howling at night, and that was awful. We took him on the train to a dog show in Farnham, and he was as good as gold but one of the judges said his legs were too long to be a good show dog and if we wanted to stop him howling we should let him become a breed dog. Off he went a week or so later to spend the night with a lady dog, he came home the next day and was worse than ever, and it was something like five years later before he stopped howling at night. I am not sure how he lived so long!!

Thinking back I suppose I should have looked for work during those early months of our marriage, but I found it really hard just running the home.  Anyway, by June of the following year Jacqueline Denise was born. Jackie, as she became known when older, was named after her two Grandfathers – Jack and Denis. We knew a few months before she was due that she would be a breech baby. I went into Alton General Hospital where they tried to turn her, but it didn't work, and I was taken to Winchester Hospital by ambulance. It was hard for me as although the staff phoned Bob he was not able to leave work to be with me. Things were a lot different in those days and women just had to get on with it – no such thing as maternity leave for men back then. 

I was in hospital for three weeks before Jackie was born. It was a forceps delivery and I was not allowed to hold her for a few days and was quite unwell myself. When we took her home ten days later we were told she should be left in her cot as much as possible as she had had a difficult time. Mum and dad picked us up from Winchester hospital and Jackie was in her carrycot. Mum wanted to carry her indoors, but Bob said she should be left in her carrycot and at that mum got very annoyed and she and dad went home.  I didn't hear anything from them for weeks, and it was very hurtful. We didn't have a phone and mobiles were unheard of in those days so we didn't sort it out properly for ages. It was very difficult looking after Jackie in the old house, she was not an easy baby, and would not suck from a bottle and I didn't want to breast feed. She would cry and cry all night and I thought I would go mad. I also thought I was a really bad mum as she so got on my nerves and I had no help from anyone. Eventually, the local nurse suggested I put a needle through the teat of her bottle so that I could just pour the milk gently into her mouth and it did make life much better. 

Tony and Eva Flitney (Eva holding Jackie), Denis and Rene Flitney and Barbara at the front.

Jacqueline was baptised at St. Mary’s Church, East Worldham. Pam and Norman’s son, Andrew was born in August and so we had a double christening. It was another really lovely sunny day, and although we couldn't afford many new clothes, Bob bought me a blue and white check suit, which looked very smart for the occasion. I found a beautiful christening gown in an antique shop which fitted Jackie perfectly. 

St. Mary’s Church, East Worldham

Sue, Bob and Jackie

We realised it would be difficult to get through another winter at Blanket Street, and as we were unable to get a Council House Bob decided to look for a job with a cottage. He got a job on a hop farm at Wyck, which is a few miles from Alton and close to Binstead. We moved into a semi-detached house with an indoor toilet, bathroom, a lovely garden and gorgeous views over the Hanger, which spreads all the way to Selborne.  Summer time at Wyck was idyllic and Pat Wood, and Pam Kirk would often walk over with Simon and Andrew and the babies would crawl about in the garden. Mum Wood was a very good mum-in-law she always arrived with food parcels and sometimes the corned beef or bread and jam she gave us was the only food we had for the last few days of the week. She also spent a lot of time knitting clothes for the babies and Jackie always wore what she knitted. Money was so short then that a social life was out of the question, but long walks with Shandy always made me feel better. It must have been hard for Bob but he always seemed content with his life.

My 21st birthday was spent at Wyck. I didn't have a party but Pat and Mike came for a visit and gave me a gift of a round dressing table stool with a furry cover. I really loved it, and it was in constant use for more than thirty years. Mum and dad gave me a dressing table set which has only just fallen apart and mum and dad Wood gave me a pretty powder compact. Bob bought me my best present ever – a sewing machine, which was passed on to Paula when it was about thirty years old.

One really sad thing happened while we were living there. Jack Wood (Bob’s father) died; it was a difficult time for Hartie and all the family. He was unwell for a long time, and it’s thought some of the problems with his lungs originated from the First World War.  He was a Blacksmith all his working life and even shod horses during the war.  He was a very well respected person in East Worldham, and some of his work remains in the church to this day.

Some of the item's in East Worldham Church made by Jack Wood

To be continued... 

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

The circus comes to town - Alton, Hampshire in 1899.

This week's Sepia Saturday prompt inspires any number of ideas, but I've decided to go with the large and small theme and share this image of a jumbo sized elephant and a very tiny (in comparison) camel. According to Wikipedia, a full-grown adult camel stands 1.85 m (6 ft 1 in) at the shoulder and 2.15m (7ft 1 in) at the hump. Elephants, on the other hand, can reach a height of 4 m (13 ft). If you add the seat plus the ladies and their hats, the combined height must be something like 5. 1816m (17 ft) no wonder the camel looks so small.

The circus comes to town (from A countrycamera by Gordon Winter)

The photograph was taken at Crown Close, Alton, Hampshire in 1899. The building in the background is now the Curtis Museum which holds (according to the museum’s website) one of the finest local history collections in Hampshire, exploring 100 million years of history with prehistoric tools, Roman pottery, Saxon burials, the Battle of Alton 1643, the notorious tale of Sweet Fanny Adams and Hop picking and brewing.

[The Battle of Alton was a skirmish in the English Civil War. The local parish church of St Lawrence still bears the scars of where the Royalists mounted their last stand.    The phrase 'Sweet Fanny Adams' originated from an infamous Victorian murder in Alton. A young girl, Fanny Adams, was murdered by Frederick Baker, a local solicitor’s clerk.]

Another view of Crown Close with the Curtis Museum (originally the Mechanics Institute and Museum) on the left.  

The land on which the museum stands was given to the town in 1877 by local brewer Henry Hall as a site for a drinking fountain, a new cottage hospital, reading room, Institute and Baths. Today Crown Close looks much the same as it always did expect a war memorial has taken the place of the drinking fountain. If you are interested in finding out more The Curtis Museum website is an excellent place to start. 

War memorial, Crown Close, Alton.

I'm rather ashamed to admit I've never visited the museum even though I've been to Alton many times and my sister now lives there.  Coincidentally, my niece (my sister’s daughter) gave me a Discover Alton 2015 calendar for Christmas, which includes a photograph of Miss Bell’s Drinking Fountain situated in Butts Road. It turns out Miss Eliza Bell a local philanthropist donated two drinking fountains to the town, one in Butts Road and the other at Crown Close, which was replaced by the war memorial and re-erected in the public gardens.

Miss Bell's Fountain (one of two), Butts Road, Alton. (Photograph - Discover Alton 2015 - Stephen Lewis Design)

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday 267; Large and Small / Radios / Broadcasting

That's me done so why not march on over to SEPIA SATURDAY for more jumbo sized tales.


Sunday, 8 February 2015

For God, King and Country.

During a holiday to Buckinghamshire in July 2013, Terry and I visited the war memorial at Butlers Cross. We went to pay our respects to my paternal grandfather Private Arthur Denis (Jack) Flitney. It turns out Arthur is not the only member of the family named on the memorial. Abel, Leonard and Sidney Flitney are also commemorated there.  This came as a complete surprise and since the holiday I've been finding out as much as I can about each of them.  My research is ongoing and will be shared in future posts but for now I want to concentrate on the memorial itself. The original wooden shrine erected in 1917 was replaced by a modern war memorial in 2006, but it’s the earlier shrine that interests me.

The Bucks Herald from 3rd November 1917, described it as a neat wayside shrine erected to the memory of those who died for God, King and Country. Located at the crossroads in Butlers Cross it is a unique structure, manufactured from timber removed from HMS Britannia a cadet training ship at Dartmouth. The shrine was paid for by a Mr. J. K Bateman of Ellesborough and manufactured by Messrs. Hughes, Bolckow.  

According to Wikipedia; HMS Prince of Wales was one of six 121-gun screw-propelled first-rate three-decker line-of-battle ships of the Royal Navy. She was launched on the 25th January 1860. In 1869 she was renamed HMS Britannia and under that name served at Dartmouth as a cadet training ship until 1905.

Her use as a training ship declined, and she was sold in 1914 and then resold to Hughes Bolckow, ship breakers of Blyth, Northumberland arriving at their Battleship wharf in July, 1916.  Hughes Bolckow employed skilled craftsmen to manufacture a wide range of furniture and other items from salvaged timber.  They had a showroom in Dover Street, a prestigious location in the West End of London and issued catalogues in which were designs for several memorial shrines.

c1901 HMS Britannia at Dartmouth.

The dedication of the wayside shrine took place on the afternoon of 27th October 1917, the reporter for the Bucks Herald described it thus:  the clergy, churchwardens, and choir met at Ellesborough House, and together they wended their way in the bright autumn sunshine. The choir comprised both men and women with the females wearing confirmation handkerchiefs as headdresses. Following these came the churchwardens with their official staves and the clergy, the Bishop of Buckingham, Rev. G. Kennedy Cooke (rural dean), Rev. F. J. Winterton and Capt. The Rev. Sellwood, Senior Chaplain at Halton Camp. The hymns sung were O God of love and On the Resurrection morning. 

Following dedicatory prayers, the Bishop of Buckingham, in a short address, said the memory of those men who had fallen in battle would never fade from the hearts of those who loved them, and it was only right that their memory should be perpetuated in a permanent form such as they saw before them. He added though there had been many shrines erected in churches he hoped a movement such as they were adopting that afternoon would become general.

At the time of the dedication just ten names were inscribed on the memorial;

Sergt. Charles Ayres, 1st Grenadier Guards
Pte Francis Bamforth, 8th Royal Fusiliers     
Pte Charles Burch, 1st Oxford and Bucks L.I     
Sapper David Charles Cox, R. E     
Corpl. Charles Eldridge, K.R.R       
Pte Herbert Eldridge, 5th Oxford and Bucks L.I      
Driver Abel Flitney, Royal Sussex     
Pte Arthur Flitney, 6th Oxford and Bucks L.I      
Pte Sidney Flitney, 2nd Oxford and Bucks L. I      
Lieutenant Ronald Gibson 110th Mahrattas      
Pte Henry Wells, 1st Oxford and Bucks L.I 

An eleventh name that of Gunner Archie Bowden would be added a short while later and by the end of the first World War the number of names would grow to nineteen and Leonard Flitney would be added.

By the autumn of 1917 shrines such as the one at Butlers Cross were appearing in many towns and villages, and the writer of the following letter published in the Bucks Herald on the 10th November 1917 hoped that in time, all villages would have a memorial of their own.

 Dear Sir, the Bishop of Buckingham at the close of his address at Ellesborough, on Oct, 27, said he hoped a movement such as they were adopting that afternoon would become general. Recently I visited the shrine and was greatly impressed. Maybe there are other such wayside shrines in Buckinghamshire, and I hope the whole country will comply with the Bishop's wishes. I should like to point out that there are villages connected with town parishes which may not be able from their own resources to erect such shrines, and I would like to suggest whether a shrine could not be placed in each of those villages with the help of their stronger neighbours, so that the wives and parents might have a fitting memento of their glorious dead near their birthplaces and homes. I shall be glad to assist in a movement for this object, and commend it to Mr. R. W. Locke, Mayor of Aylesbury, for his kind consideration. Yours Alfred Morley, Dunsmore, Wendover, November 5, 1917.  

I don't think Mr. Morley needed to worry as it wasn't long before shrines were appearing all over the country culminating in the Great War Shrine unveiled in Hyde Park on the 4th August, 1918. Unlike shrines elsewhere this one didn't carry the names of the fallen, instead it was a memorial to all who were serving, had served or been killed during the war. Twenty thousand people were reported to be at the unveiling, and organisers claimed more than two hundred thousand people laid flowers in the first week.

Hyde Park, 4th August, 1918.  (Photograph courtesy
 Daily Mirror 05/08/1918).

An article in The Daily Telegraph on the 19 June 2009 suggests the shrines didn't come without controversy. Prayers for the dead went against the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England. Furthermore, J. H. Kensit of the Protestant Truth Society said that the shrines inspired idolatry. Such shrines attracted, too, the interest of Catholics and Jews in the East End at a time when joint prayers by people of different faiths were not countenanced.

No doubt there will always be controversy but whatever the rights and wrongs, I'm pleased my grandfather's name is remembered. He died for his country and his sacrifice and the sacrifice of all those who fought and died should not be forgotten.

Source documents;

The Bucks Herald 
The Daily Mirror 

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